July 14, 2008

Nebraska Governor to Promote Beef to European Union Parliament

By Martha Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Jul. 14--LINCOLN -- Gov. Dave Heineman said today that he 's been invited to speak to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee of the European Union Parliament this fall -- making him apparently the first U.S. governor to receive such an invitation.

The invitation is among several opportunities to showcase Nebraska beef and other agricultural products on three continents during the coming months.

Heineman said the activities, which range from promotional events to policy forums, should help the state increase sales in the global marketplace.

"Encouraging policy changes and promoting Nebraska beef, pork and poultry in foreign markets will build demand for our livestock industry, which currently faces economic challenges," the governor said.

Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said the activities should help other sectors of the state's economy as well.

"When we send a Nebraska meat product overseas, we're also selling Nebraska corn and soybeans" that went into raising the animals, he said.

The first event will be in Hong Kong, where Nebraska beef will be included in a two-week promotion of United States food products. The promotion starts next week. It will be held eight Jusco stores, the largest food retail outlet in Hong Kong.

In September, Nebraska beef will be featured at the Feria Alimentaria Food Show in Guatemala, a international food expo that attracts 4,000 food buyers, sellers and consumers to the capital of that Central American nation.

Heineman said the Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2006 and a growing middle class in Central America make that area an emerging market.

The governor's appearance before the European Union leaders is expected to be later in the fall. Heineman said the European Union is wrestling with its current agriculture policies, especially its ban on importing beef from cattle treated with growth hormones.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Neil Parish extended the invitation to speak following Parish's May visit to Nebraska. He came to the state to learn about beef production, genetically modified crops and biofuels production.

Heineman said the appearance may not lead directly to increased sales. But he said it will help build the relationships that can encourage future sales.

In addition to the events overseas, Nebraska will play host to a delegation of Guatemalan government leaders in August and to two Cuban trade officials at the end of this month. The Guatemalans are looking for information about genetically modified crops. The Cubans will tour the state's dry bean, wheat and soybean industries. Nebraska has inked several contracts to sell those products in Cuba


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